Ketson ‘Jack’ Kabiriel passes away



The CNMI sports community last weekend mourned the passing of multi-sports athlete Ketson “Jack” Kabiriel. He was 47.

The three-time Northern Marianas Sports Association Male Athlete of the Year succumbed to cancer at the Commonwealth Health Center last Saturday morning. 
Kabiriel, who represented the CNMI in track and field as well as paddling, triathlon, and volleyball in many regional events including the Micronsian Games, is survived by his loving wife Patty and their children Kaden, K.J., Gabby, and Koen. Their nephew, Dennis, is also considered part of the family.

Nicknamed the “Roadrunner Bunny,” Kabiriel was diagnosed with stage 2 oral cancer in December 2021.

Patty extended his heartfelt thank you for all the messages of condolences these past couple of days following Kabiriel’s passing.

“I want to thank each and everyone who loved Jack. On behalf of Jack’s family—his dad, his siblings who are all here to lay Jack in his final resting place, myself, and our kids—we thank you all for your love for your support during Jack’s life and during his time battling with cancer. We thank you for your words of sympathy, condolences, and prayers. Please know that you are all important to us.”

She added that his late husband remained strong even as cancer ravaged his body in his final days.

“Jack was a strong person even when he was in pain, he never showed it because that’s how he is. He always tries to put a positive face on. He would rather stay strong for others especially for his family even in his difficult times. He sacrificed so much, himself and his well being for the happiness of his loved ones and friends. I know if Jack was still with us today he would say, ‘be strong and don’t worry about everything, let God take care of it,’ which is what he always tells me whenever he knows I’m worried about him. So let’s all be strong and let God take care of him because all of us here are just visitors in this place called Earth. Our final dwelling will be with our Creator where life is so much more beautiful.  Once again thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. We love you all,” said Patty.

Northern Marianas Sports Association joined the islands’ sports community in mourning the loss of Kabiriel.

“NMSA would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family of national athlete Ketson ‘Jack’ Kabiriel. Jack represented the NMI in various regional competitions and brought honor to the islands by winning medals and setting a good example to his fellow athletes. The NMSA acknowledges his great contributions to NMI sports with his involvement in athletics, va’a, triathlon, and volleyball as an athlete and a coach. He will be missed,” said NMSA president Jerry Tan.

Northern Marianas Athletics also extended its deepest and profound condolences and prayers to Kabiriel’s family and loved ones. 

“Jack was a staunch and well respected friend to all of us. You see it’s not only in sports, though he steers for his national paddle team, he was a significant part of our traditional navigational seafaring movement in our region. He played a big role,” said NMA president Ramon “Ray” Tebuteb.

The former congressman, who is also part of the group promoting the local seafaring tradition in the CNMI, added that Kabiriel was a great inspiration to both the running and rowing community.

“On a regular basis, Jack not only cruises the running paths on our scenic Beach Road but glides the surfaces of our blue ocean. He loved long distance challenges. He showed his fortitude to aspiring athletes. He will be missed. May he rest in peace, we wish his family and friends peace and comfort. TIROW JACK.”

The Northern Marianas National Paddle Sports Federation said together with all their member clubs, they are saddened by the untimely passing of one of their “ocean family members.”

“Our entire ocean family mourns with his family and sends our most sincere and deepest condolences to his wife, kids and the family.  Jack will be greatly missed not only by his ocean family, but also by the entire sports community in the Commonwealth. He spent all his life in sports—his years before va’a were with the athletics federation representing the NMI in all the regional games and became a household name known for his endurance running. About 10 to 15 years ago, he ran across from the track and field area and hopped on the va’a and made a huge contribution to the ocean sports representing his respective canoe club and the NMI in local, regional, and international competitions,” said NMNPSF president Justine Andrew.

More than a rower, Andrew said Kabiriel was a true friend to everyone. 

“We will definitely miss his big smiles, warm, and friendly personality and his overall presence in our sports community. As he set his canoe and paddle ready for the next journey, we bid him ‘fair winds and following seas and may the winds, the currents and the ocean swells be always on your manu hope!’ Until we meet again, paddle on brother Jack!” 

Triathlon Association of the CNMI secretary general Jojo Valencia extended their condolences to the Kabiriel family following his untimely demise.

“On behalf of TRAC, we are deeply saddened to hear the news about the passing of our fellow athlete Jack Kabiriel. Jack is a good man and a great athlete. He will be missed by many people, especially the sports community here in CNMI. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

TRAC president Manny Sitchon said the last time he saw Kabiriel was during the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022.

“Last time I saw Jack was during the PMG 2022, walking along the Garapan Pathway (Joeten) he was going to the Grandvrio Resort, site of the athletes village. I stopped my car and had a little chat with him. He looked pale and thin. From then on I regret not having talked with him a little longer. He’s a nice, soft-spoken person and a very athletic guy. The CNMI just lost one of our sports gems,” he said.

Elias Rangamar, NMA development officer who has known Kabiriel since he started running competitively, was a loss for words after finding out about his ward’s passing. 

“I practically coached Jack through his early days when he first moved to Saipan. A great inspiration not just to the Chuukese community but the whole Saipan community as well. Great human being with a kind and generous heart.”

Rowing teammate Dr. Bobby Cruz said he’s also heartbroken with the sudden passing of Kabiriel.

“Jack was my brother, coach, and our team’s captain. He inspired me and the boys to keep pushing even when times get tough. Jack was always about challenging himself. He believed in seeing how far his body could go so that the next time around he does better. Jack was mentally the strongest champion I know. He’d tell me to talk to myself and to keep pushing through and to never give up.”

The Public School System director of Instructional Technology and Distance Education said Kabiriel saw the Pacific Islands as capable of competing at the highest level. 

“He believed that if others can do it, then we could do it too. He always showed up for every challenge. He’d gun for first but even if he finished 10th place, it didn’t matter because at least he finished the race. And having the courage to show up and finish means you’re a winner. Captain Jack’s mindset often leads him and us to victory. When time got really hard in competition, he made it a battle for his family, and that love for Patty and the kids pushed him to the next level and ultimate victory.”

Cruz said his most indelible memory of Kabriel was when he asked him what he does to get pumped up.

“He said, ‘I always picture the feeling of making it to the finish line. Especially when I’m getting close to finishing, I tell myself to push harder, finish strong, and be proud of the accomplishment. No regrets! Just lessons learned. Opportunities to be better! With life, I always wanna do my best because I know down the line what I bring to my family and my home will be my legacy…Something that they will remember and cherish forever,’” recalled Cruz.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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